Western Europe must pay more attention to the Balkans before the situation in the region becomes untenable, writes Thierry Mariani MEP.
Brussels (Brussels Morning) It is a European constant: little is said about the Balkans until the circumstances in the region become untenable. Not much is uttered because our historical legacies and strategic interests often diverge in this part of the continent. And if we do raise the topic, there are the major geopolitical interests to consider, namely of Russia, Turkey, and the US.
Yet, Western Europe should be seriously concerned about developments in the former Yugoslavia. The migrant crisis has clearly highlighted the strategic importance of this region while we look the other way. By doing so, we need not witness the failures of the artificial creation of Kosovo, for example. This pseudo-state, built by carving up Serbia, is today a danger for the whole of Europe.
Shelter for numerous mafias that strike evenly in our lands, Kosovo, possesses a concentration of drugs, human beings, and the traffic of arms feeding networks increasing in Western Europe. Worse still, Kosovo was built from the hatred of Serbia. Yet, we learned that Hashim Thaci, prime minister and then president of Kosovo, was indicted by the International Criminal Court on 5 November 2020. He will not be alone at the helm since his close UCK (Ushtria Çlirimtare e Kosovës) entourage is also being indicted.
Thaci has garnered substantial international attention, including the US State Department, the Quai d’Orsay and the EU, all in a hurry to establish his power. However, the ideology and methods of the UCK are well known. An American protectorate, Kosovo, is also a hotbed of Islamist radicalisation that should worry our rulers. The silence on this clearly demonstrates that a double standard is being imposed in the Balkans: on the one hand, the small soldiers of Atlanticism and on the other, Serbia.
Readers must understand the humiliation imposed on Serbia in its relations with the EU. All have been made dependent on its impossible recognition of Kosovo. Therefore, we have an important state in the long European history, incredibly Francophile, and to which unelected commissioners order to kneel before sulphurous former enemies.
For others, it is the door wide open. Milan Djukanovic’s Montenegro, whose economy is heavily dependent on illegal activities, recently flouted the principle of religious freedom that Brussels claims to defend. The country’s all-powerful president was trying to nationalise the clergy’s property of the orthodox churches that refused to submit to the national church, a very recent invention.
The reaction was not long in coming, leading to mass demonstrations. Police violence, the imprisonment of bishops, strategy of tension, Djukanovic spared nothing of his people without protest from the EU.
These attacks prove the duplicity of Western Europe regarding the Balkans. It could merely revolt those who hope for the emergence of a multipolar world. But the problem is even more general. Turkey, nostalgic for the Ottoman Empire, is increasing its influence everywhere in this part of Europe. It imposes opponents’ extraditions to Albania, benefits from a powerful relay in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bisera Turkovic, is a declared admirer of Recep Tayip Erdogan. Even more worryingly, Qatar’s influence on local Islam is regularly denounced.
What is Western Europe playing at by continuing, out of fear of the US, to allow the most harmful and dangerous influences to prosper on its flank? Does it have a bad conscience about the bombings that targeted Serbia and the unnatural alliances it formed at the time?
Is it afraid of the influence of the mafias that are building their sanctuary there? Certainly. Above all, Western Europe makes the same mistake it has in past centuries: it neglects the importance of what is happening in the Balkans, to the point it wants to make Albania join the EU. History has shown us the potential for drama on the back of such a casual approach.